Tuesday, December 1, 2009

All the President's Men

Day 335 - 12/1/09 - Movie #335

BEFORE: I have to admit to not really understanding the Watergate scandal. I was only 3 or 4 years old at the time, so it had little impact on me. I know there was a break-in at the Watergate Hotel, and Nixon tried to cover it up and later resigned, but beyond that, things get a little fuzzy for me. So tonight's movie will come with a history lesson for me.

THE PLOT: Reporters Woodward and Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Nixon's resignation.

AFTER: I found this film fascinating, not for the historical content, but for the depiction of Washington Post reporters in 1972 - they used manual typewriters (Redford seems to prefer the 2-finger "hunt and peck" method) and rotary phones, they're allowed to smoke indoors, and they call everybody "Sir," even the people they're trying to get damning evidence against.

Unfortunately, a lot of the "action" in this film is Redford and Dustin Hoffman making phone calls, or knocking on doors. But I suppose that's real-life reporting, not some Hollywood version that involves sneaking into buildings and avoiding security laser-beams.

Speaking of break-ins, this one was relatively muddled - I STILL don't know exactly what those burglars were doing at the DNC headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. Were they bugging it, or stealing campaign secrets, or planting evidence? Of course, Woodward and Bernstein eventually get the dirt on other campaign tricks, like discrediting other candidates, and a secret Republican slush fund. But why is anyone shocked that elected officials will work the system to try to remain in office? Except for George Washington, I doubt any U.S. President ever left office quietly or of his own choosing...and all's fair in love, war, and politics, right?

Also, I realize that the reporters' investigation took months and moved at a snail's pace, but did the movie have to move forward so slowly, too? I guess that was so the audience would be just as frustrated, and just as thankful for any scrap of information that would advance the plot...

With Jason Robards, Martin Balsam (last seen by me in "The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3"), Jack Warden (last seen by me in "Bulworth"), Hal Holbrook, and cameos by Ned Beatty, Stephen Collins and Meredith Baxter. Don't blink or you'll miss F. Murray Abraham as one of the undercover policemen who respond to the break-in, and future "Sopranos" star Dominic Chianese as one of the burglars.

RATING: 6 out of 10 unnamed sources

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